Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Trouble with Lists

The question has been asked many times…I have posted my thoughts on this in the past but will do it again for the benefit of newer folks who may have missed it or those who still do not get it.

Why is it that I am not keeping lists like all the other makers do?

Answer: Because I am not like all other makers. Show me another maker out there working solo who has offered runs of over 60 different items this year. Let me give you an example...

There are lots of guys making 5 or 6 different models of knives, maybe they have 2 folders and 3 fixed blades. The price points are much higher than mine (say $150-600) so right away their list is smaller. This is because generally speaking, the higher the price the smaller the pool of buyers who are lined up waiting. If you had 35 people waiting and most wanted one thing and only a few wanted 2 or 3 items then the list is workable even if it takes months or a year to get to all of them.

Now make that 100 people on the list, a list that is growing daily, and each wants between 1 and 12 different items. Some ask simply for one of everything as if that would make it easier. Let’s not forget my small pool of dealers too and the numerous emails I get from folks who wish to be dealers…at this point, had I continued keeping lists, I would easily be up to several hundred people and the wait time would in years.

Anyway, here’s the list of items they might be choosing from:

Skeeter, Sumo, Wedgie3, Wedgie 4, Wedgie5, basic Keyton, Area 51 Keyton, Ti prybaby, Ti keyton, Gasbaby, Hexbaby, Micro BOBar, full sized BOBar, Ti BoBar regular, Ti bobar gas wrench version, Mini ti BOBar, Ti whistle, Brass whistle with rifle knurl, Brass whistle with diamond knurl, Brass whistle with straight knurl, Stainless whistle wide straight knurl, Stainless whistle fine straight knurl, Stainless whistle rifle knurl, Stainless whistle diamond knurl, Damascus whistle blue tongue pattern, Damascus whistle twist pattern, Damascus mini prybabies, Damascus mini keytons, Damascus boogers, Damascus msopthings, Steel msopthings, Full sized SOPThings, Micro BOBlades, full sized BOBlades, Keykutter, Mini cc knives, Damascus mini cc knives, Drop point boogers, Original boogers, Wharncliffe boogers, Tanto boogers, Flat keytons, Flat spannerbabies, Regular spannerbabies, Titanium spannerbabies, Pop n Chops, Bottlebugs, Crawdaddies, Bug bites, G2 prybabies, Prybaby XLs, Mini Prybaby XLs, Titanium Prybaby XLs, Titanium bottlebugs, Ghouls, Goblins, Constellation prybabies, Constellation keytons, long keytons, Talonite skeeters, Talonite mini son of prythings, Perforated prybabies, Scouts, Glowhistles, Area 51 bug out bars, Tac straps, etc, etc, etc.

And on the titanium items they want special finishes and grinds. The cord wrap colors are blah blah and blah and can you include an extra piece of cord? And they really want a lefty not a righty. Can they have tiger stripes? Can they get bubble pattern on one with black cord and satin on the other with orange reflective cord? How about a slightly smaller one? How about a bigger one? Can they get it in damascus? Will I use their damascus bar they got from Ebay? Can you drill some extra holes in that? Can you make me one with no holes at all? Can you leave off the V notch on mine? If they order it without a teklok can I give them a discount? How about a sheath to go with that non-knife tool? Can you engrave my initials or my company name? Can you let me know when you will have more of them? Can they have it all shipped at once because they’d like to save on postage. And can they have it by the end of the month because they are going on vacation/getting married/giving it as a gift/deploying overseas and they need it before then. And how come such and such got theirs first when they have been waiting for months?

Then they change their mind and so now I have to go and find their listing on the spreadsheet and make some changes, all of which takes time when I could be in the shop making cool shit and dreaming the dreams which is where the new stuff comes from. Oh yeah, did I mention that they emailed me from their other email account and signed their name Bob and I have 3 different Bobs on my list and now none of the emails match? And they have the annoying habit of erasing everything from their previous emails so I cannot follow the earlier conversation and figure out quickly just what it was that they wanted…so I email them and then wait a day to hear back and clarify everything meanwhile forgetting our earlier email conversation because I’m so freaking busy and trying to keep it all in my head and since then 6 other people have emailed asking for stuff…

Starting to get the picture?

I’m telling you, it would make anyone FREAKING CRAZY trying to keep up with it all. I don’t think even the CIA could come up with a more effective means to break a human being. I was going nuts and getting so stressed out I couldn’t see straight so I said NO MORE! The heck with the damned list! I’ll make what I feel like making and post them when they’re done. Period. You would not BELIEVE how relieved I was after making that decision.

Since then my production has increased exponentially because concentrating on larger batches of one thing at a time is so much more efficient. Working off the list was draining my energy, keeping me permanently confused and I wasn’t getting half as much stuff made.

So there you have it. I could go on and on but it would just be redundant and bore everyone to tears. Bottom line, I am deeply grateful to the folks who have stuck with me through this and apologize to the ones who don’t like my system, but for the sake of my sanity that’s how it has to be.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

peter - I am one of those guys who first connected with your work through a blog. I enjoy your posts about the work - the tools, knifes, gadgets, etc.

Although I understand your recent frustration re: the demands for mass production, lists, selling out , etc... keep posting about the work!!
Those that are interested in your work, for the same reasons you are, "get it." I assume you write a blog to share and not just write into thin air? The air will certainly thin if all we read is complaints. You do what you LOVE to do!

stirboo said...

Peter,

I'd say 98% of your clients get where you're coming from and I, for one, say more power to you. As an artisan and entrepreneur, you rightly deserve to call the shots. I applaud you for maintaining your integrity.

And, oh by the way, your integrity makes me even prouder to be the owner of such well-designed and executed wares.

Funny how that works, eh?

Best,
Richard

Peter Atwood said...

Thanks, I hear you and the point is taken. I just felt I needed to elaborate a little further in response to some of the recent comments. Also, I continue to get 20-30 emails a week asking to be put on the list for item x or notified when such and such becomes available. I'd like to do that but just can't keep up with it. Also, keep in mind that tons of new folks have come along in the past few months and they don't really know what's going on. So that's why I posted this. Not to complain, just to clarify.

I'll shut up now and it's back to our regularly scheduled programming. :)

jet said...

That sort of list-making/tracking would be insane, you'd have to be making enough to pay someone handle/manage orders.

I should have been clearer in my suggestion to do a subscription service...

I used to buy board games from a company that had a subscription service that worked like this: you send them $X, they send you one each of everything they released until the $X ran out. No choices in what you get, you just get whatever they released as they released it.

Get something you didn't like? Tough -- sell it on eBay or give it away.

If you're getting tons of custom requests, that's got to be a serious PITA. I don't know if I'd even read that sort of email.

Peter Atwood said...

Yeah, well I WAS reading them and answering every one of them. :) Thanks for the comments.

Blackie said...

Peter,
I found you almost two years ago through one of the knife/gadet forums, and just love the look of your stuff. Back then I remember items hanging around for days or weeks before they "poofed". I couldn't swing the cash at the time but knew I'd keep coming back. Then I saw your name on a few different web sites and my first thought was "Oh crap, now it will really get busy", and it did, but then I realised that the extra traffic would make sure you were actually making some money and would be more likely to be around later. Looks like that is working out also. :)

I'll wait, someday my cash flow and your part flow will match up.
That'll be a pretty god day.

Keep having fun with what you're doing.

Blackie

Mike M. said...

I found you through one of those large blogs that you mentioned. It didn't take long to figure out what was going on, so when one of the two or three designs that I wanted, I bought with out hesitation. Not too much longer, everything was gone.

And oh, yes, a bunch of stuff that had hung on ebay for at least a few days before, disappeared within minutes of ebay's mention here.

I can't see you doing things differently. Don't compromise, do what pleases you!

- Mike

Lawrence said...

Hey Peter, it looks to me like "we" have gotten to you. This is your work and you work at your pace. You shouldn't have to explain yourself to the masses, do what you want when you want to.

Peter Atwood said...

Actually, no, I'm pretty happy with the situation. I just felt like when I made this move back in the spring that I didn't really explain myself very well and so some folks probably didn't really get it. And now a lot of new people are asking the same questions. So that's all. Not trying to create a big controversy, just making sure that it's clear.

Norm Shapiro said...

Peter, keep up the good work and do what is best for you. You always have to think of #1 (yourself) and be happy with what you are doing. Otherwise what is the point?

Norm

Anonymous said...

Peter, another thought from one who has been where you are now, from time to time, when did you have your last vacation?

Norm

souptree said...

Personally, I am glad there is no list. Have I gotten everything I would have gotten if you'd reached my name on a list and done a bunch of customs for me? Not even close, but there have been enough one offs trickling out that I am satisfied. And if the trend continues, I expect to stay satisfied.

I do miss all the photos of the customs that people used to post on the forums though. It's not quite as exciting reading the 20th post of "I got my Crawdaddy!"

So, yup, that's my vote, not that you wanted it. No list, and more one-offs!

Anonymous said...

Look at the way the industry is now...Hinderer, McGinnis, and a whole bunch of others have officially closed their lists till an unknown time in the future. I'm guessing their lists, being over a year long, are getting to be a bit much for them as well. Not to mention the shops they deal with as well (many the same as you).


If only the U.S. economy followed that of the custom knife industry. Seems to be an almost endless flow of money floating around here.

Ted said...

Peter, I totally understand and agree with you position. Despite the fact that I was one of those emailing you, "I'll take two...!"

I didn't know. I didn't understand. I was new to your products and as alive with excitement and anticipation as my 5-year old was this Halloween morn.

Perhaps you should cross-link to this particular post in your FAQ or on the Ordering page (or where such would be...). I know if I'd seen it before hand, I'd not've been dropping excited emails on you that probably had you rolling your eyes, "ah, another noob has found me..."

Save you some aggravation (those who can't read can't buy!) and might get us a bit more product.

WHATEVER product the Mind of Atwood creates.

Oh, and MAN do I love my Crawdaddies (which also makes an EXcellent kuboton/self-defense item)!

Joe said...

Hey Peter,

I totally understand how you feel. BTW, just wanted to let you know, I ENJOY reading through that loooooooong list you created in this post. Just like bringing back those good memories. It's amazing to see how many things you've created and how long the list will look like if you had one.

Anonymous said...

I've got to call you on something Peter.

That long list that you posted as possibilities if you had kept a list is BS!

You'd be so backlogged with your list and trying to please every last customer that I honestly don't know where you'd find the time and energy to come up with new designs. You very easily could have gone into a stall where you had your previously existing ideas and then maybe a few ideas from customers.

I think that your change of plans has helped your creativity. You've come out with a whole bunch of new things since you've made the change.

I for one have no problem with the way that you are currently running YOUR business. Keep up the good work and I'll keep buying the goodies that I'm interested in.

Anonymous said...

Just keep on making cool stuff as it inspires you, it'll sell.

ben lavine said...

Yeah!!

Anonymous said...

A way you could do lists and minimize headaches for you...

Tell people (on your webpage, here, wherever), "I am going to have x quantity of y item available. They only come with black cordwrap and no special requests will be honored. Your name will be put on the list once cleared payment in full is received. No refunds. No "rush" deliveries. No combining orders...these will be shipped separately when finished."

That way, no one can bitch and moan...you don't have a ton of things to keep up with and the nightmarish stack of spreadsheets that would require. Just one list for one item with no special requests.

Believe me, there are enough people that would do this and not complain about not being able to request certain colors of cord-wrap, etc. Too many people want to buy your stuff...especially now. It would make many folks happy and it wouldn't be complicated so not as time-consuming and tedious to keep up with for you.

Anyway, just an idea.

Gary said...

Peter,

As always, keep up the great work and don't look back. We love your creations for the very reason they are not mass produced.


Gary

nylads said...

Wow. Away a few days and it isn't just tools you miss out on around here. What a lot of reading!

Peter, I guess just about everything's been said but if you'll indulge me I'd like to get a couple thoughts out.

Just an observation that it must be frustrating that these tools which you have obviously taken great care to make functional would be hoarded by collectors and kept in plastic bags for sale later. I may not know enough about collecting these things but I was inspired to get my new bottle bug out of the bag and put it in my pocket.

Part of the frustration expressed here may be that you have simply outgrown this sales channel. Ebay may not be the answer, but something like that would give everyone a shot, let the market set the price and probably reduce some of the time you have to spend on random inquiries. It seems the sales prices would be a bit higher, off-setting any increase in sales costs. You also wouldn't have the buyers who just buy to turn it around on Ebay. Those of us who have successfully snagged items on your site would end up paying more, but I'd rather see the extra dough going to the guy who did all the work than to someone who just figured out how to flip these.

Lastly, this is a lot of noise and you seem to be wisely remembering why you do what you do, and what is important to you. That, I admire even more than the quality of your tools.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter,

While I have never bought any of your work (I could only afford it these day if you expanded that list to work willing todo in trade for product). Even the pictures of your work is art. And I completely agree with your feelings on lists. Artist are just that artist not production lines. You don't appear to have any problems selling you art, so follow your spirit and continue to grow. With the talent you have you will never be able to satisfy the desire for you work.

I wish you all the joy in your work,

Rob F

Jason Arnold said...

Peter,
We are lucky to be able to buy any of your tools. I consider myself blessed to own any.

Thanks again!

-Jason

PS: I will track down the ones I missed and MUST have!